Maggie Dana’s Keeping Secrets tells the story of fourteen-year-old Kate McGreggor who has sworn off riding and horses since a tragedy occurred. When Kate takes a summer job helping Holly Chapman, a young rider now wheelchair-bound, Kate finds herself once again thrust into the horse world, despite her reluctance. As Kate becomes an increasingly important part of Holly’s life, she must struggle to keep her dark past a secret, and to help Holly deal with a barn bully who will stop at nothing to win.
The book tells a realistic, largely believable story, and the dialogue is well crafted, especially the conversations between Kate and Holly. Maggie has captured their voices naturally, and develops their characters well. The pacing is perfect and the action-filled plot moves forward quickly, which will keep young readers engrossed and entertained.
Keeping Secrets includes important lessons about the fear, responsibility, and even guilt that riders can face. It examines our relationships with horses and how they can affect us as people. Gracefully learning to live with loss becomes a central theme to the entire book. Kate’s struggle with her past provides another important lesson about letting go, moving on, and forgiving the person who is often the most difficult to forgive – yourself.
Revolving around horses, Keeping Secrets portrays the world of riding accurately and realistically. The scenes involving horses are detailed and visual, and even readers who aren’t terribly familiar with the horse world or with horse terminology will be able to navigate and enjoy this book.
At 176 pages, Keeping Secrets is a quick and easy read; I read it in one sitting. The antagonist, named Angela, is reminiscent of the bully in the Saddle Club series, and I would have liked to have seen more variety or creativity with her character. However, Keeping Secrets is the first book in the series; it’s possible that Angela’s character will continue to develop and differentiate itself through the series’ progression.
Be sure to check out the Timber Ridge Riders series website. You can also read an excerpt of Keeping Secrets, and purchase the book on Amazon.